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Author Topic: Ioptron Skytracker Camera Mount  (Read 1396 times)

tiger82

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Ioptron Skytracker Camera Mount
« on: August 26, 2013, 10:16:52 AM »
Does anyone have any experience with this device?
« Last Edit: August 26, 2013, 03:29:52 PM by tiger82 »
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Ioptron Skytracker Camera Mount
« on: August 26, 2013, 10:16:52 AM »

niteclicks

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Re: Ioptron Skytracker Camera Mount
« Reply #1 on: August 27, 2013, 10:05:27 AM »
I don't have one, but unless you need to be ultra portable I think there are better options depending on what you are after. The main problem I saw when I looked at it (and similar) was the weight capacity of 7 lbs. and the need for a pretty heavy tripod for rigidity. Entry level telescope mounts with clock drive and tripod can be had for the same price new and cheap used , usually about double the weight handling and are the same basic setup, but I would think much easier to setup. Checkout the Losmandy Starlapse it has a 30 lb load capacity although it is twice the price and again would need a heavy tripod.

JerryKnight

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Re: Ioptron Skytracker Camera Mount
« Reply #2 on: August 27, 2013, 05:29:13 PM »
I also don't have direct experience with this tracker (first I've heard of it actually) but it seems pretty good on paper. It supports the same payload weight as the Vixen Polarie, which has gotten decent reviews from what I can tell. Personally, I have the Astrotrac TT320X. It supports a ton by comparison (15kg) but it costs a bit more as well, and it's not nearly as compact.

The only main difference I can tell between the Skytracker and the Polarie, apart from the Vixen reputation, is that for the same price, the Skytracker includes a polar scope. The Vixen polar scope is $130. Of course, for most short exposures, a rough visual alignment is sufficient, but going beyond a minute or two or focal lengths longer than 100mm or so, an accurate alignment helps a lot. In my opinion, you get a tracker so that you can take longer exposures, so you should do whatever you can to get good polar alignment.

If anyone is thinking of getting into this, remember the total cost of your system.

  • ~$150-300: Get a good sturdy, well-made tripod. Get something you can use for other things, or if you already have a decent non-Walmart tripod that can support the weight of everything, you can use it. I went with the Manfrotto 055XPROB, and I like it because its legs can swing outward and form a very wide base. Regardless of your tripod, you should get a sandbag or two to weigh it down. I also have a set of the Celestron vibration-reduction pads, but I haven't yet had a chance to evaluate their effectiveness.
  • ~$250: I highly recommend getting a geared tripod head to mount the tracking mount on. Manfrotto 410 or 405. It's just as important as the polar scope if you ask me, because it allows you to make very fine, precise adjustments during polar alignment while keeping a very stable platform. (B&H actually offers the 410 head with the 055XPROB tripod for a significant discount.)
  • ~$50-150: Don't forget a ball head for the camera side of the mount. Don't get a flimsy one, because it has to be just as sturdy as the rest of your platform.
  • ~$50-100: A timing remote is a very handy accessory for long exposures. Most cameras will only go to 30 seconds unless you go into bulb mode. Holding the shutter button on a sky-tracking camera is not an option, and IR remotes are problematic. Even with a simple wired remote, controlling the exposure time by stopwatch is tedious, and having the remote in your hand can cause vibrations in the camera. Timer remotes can do any length of exposures hands-free, and they can do automatic time-lapse, so you can easily get repeated shots and stack them together in software. The Vello ShutterBoss (B&H brand) runs around $50 for the wired, $100 for the wireless version.

(Prices are extremely rough ballpark estimates based only on my own experience.)

I think the important thing to remember with these systems is that they're for amateurs. Good results aren't guaranteed and it will take lots of patience and experimentation, but you don't have to get as much specialized equipment to enjoy the hobby. The required extras do add up in cost, but you get to use them for other things. The only thing that cannot be reused in some other way is the mount itself. I don't get out and do astrophotography often enough, but I'm frequently glad that I have a nice tripod, quality tripod heads, and the other related accessories.

You can get much better systems, but they'll be more expensive, less portable, and single-purpose.

EDIT: I wasn't familiar with the Losmandy Starlapse, but niteclicks is right - that one is very sturdy and would require a much sturdier tripod than the Polarie, Skytracker, or Astrotrac. Their website shows photos of it mounted to a heavy-duty video tripod (and those are not cheap). I would almost say that if you're serious enough to consider the Starlapse, you should probably consider a dedicated all-in-one system like the Vixen GP2 or others that I have no experience with.
« Last Edit: August 27, 2013, 05:45:40 PM by JerryKnight »

paul13walnut5

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Re: Ioptron Skytracker Camera Mount
« Reply #3 on: August 27, 2013, 05:55:16 PM »
I've a motorised goto skywatcher head that I've mounted to a 055 tripod for timelapse psns and tilts.
Don't use it for astronomy.  Lots of these heads sold under different names, whats up?

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Re: Ioptron Skytracker Camera Mount
« Reply #3 on: August 27, 2013, 05:55:16 PM »